Episode 7 - Ho-Chi-Minh-City - Guangzhou (Jan 27 - Feb 12, 13)
From the metropolis Ho-Chi-Minh City we drive up north along the Vietnamese coast passing tropical villages and old coast towns, until we reach the subtropical city of Guangzhou in China. Christian Klemke directs this stage.
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Sunday, January 27, 2013 - We travelled from Saigon to Nha Trang yesterday. Today is our first shooting. We are up early to find a fisherman with a round woven boat called guffa. Early in the morning on the beach, at the ocean side of Southeast China… And not only one, no, all fishermen use these boats. Not, of course on the open sea, but to get to their fishing cutters. Our cameraman Thomas is on board on one of them, a very wobbly affair.
Monday, January 28, 2013 - The Asian Highway No.1 takes us along the coast line, so we will see a lot of the ocean. Driving on the Vietnamese part of the AH 1 proves to have its "pitfalls", it demands its own rhythm: Accelerating - pulling the breaks - accelerating - pulling the breaks. Continuously. Every 50 metres we must pass a creeping giant lorry, each time confronting the oncoming traffic merrily. Our average speed at this rate: hardly 40 km/h. Thus, we only make 400 kilometres to Quang Ngai. Forgot to mention the thousands of mopeds bumming around and between the lorries.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - Driving to Hoi An, the town by the ocean. Hoi An was once the most important port in Southeast Asia back in the 17th and 18th century. And the old town was spared from the Vietnam War. Hard to imagine. The old town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the town of tailors. One tailored suit is said to cost around 100 dollars and be ready in eight hours. We don't quite make it to Hoi An, so we spend the night in Quang Ngai.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - Should I mention that we are strolling along in Hoi An under palm trees the end of January, having 30 degrees Celsius in the shade? But we actually prefer shooting rather than strolling around, since the air is very hot and humid. I notice that in the old town, some merchants are burning money, goods and clothing in front of their shops. Not because they have too much of it all, but because the Vietnamese New Year Festival, the Tet-Festival, is around the corner. The burning is a friendly gesture for the ghosts (or gods?). Whatsoever, you can buy cheap, laminated sets of money made especially for the festival: Vietnamese Dong, US-Dollars, even gold bars made of gold foil. The heavens have not yet complained about this small bluff.
Saturday, February 2, 2013 - Today we want to arrive in Ha Long. The preparations for the festival are getting along; the Asian Highway is proof of that. One should compare it to our preparations for the Christmas holidays. Everyone is buying and carrying things around like crazy. Orange trees the height of a man, e.g., transported on the back of mopeds. And pigs, most probably still living, in two baskets on the luggage rack. And huge amounts of bushes everywhere, which will probably bloom on the 9th of February. So, at the moment, there are more people and transports on the street than usual. Gregor and Ingo, our very skilful drivers (I can say that, because they always bring us to our destination safely) are pretty exhausted.
A word to the Vietnamese houses on the Asian Highway, which seem very peculiar for Europeans: At night you can look directly into them. Just imagine two, three or four shoe boxes piled up on one another, the narrow side facing the street. On the top you have a pointed roof. The house is three to five metres in width, the length depends on the wealth, the height is impressive. The street side is richly decorated with avant-corps, parapets, posts, pillars and flourish, and, if possible, yet another little gilded turret on top. The sides of the buildings, however, are grey and windowless, as in a high bunker.
Night has fallen, and in the hotel restaurant a rat strolls over the Swedish breakfast buffet already prepared for the following morning. Good night.
Sunday, February 3, 2013 - Doing research in the Ha Long Bay, an incredibly beautiful landscape, a heavenly piece of nature.
Monday, February 4, 2013 - It is raining. We want to shoot in the Ha Long Bay, but can only get there by boat. Tram has chartered an entire excursion steamer for us. With this giant we dock at a little floating school. The weather is improving. The children are fond of Thomas, our camera man, for he seems so unusually tall to them, so they use him as a climbing frame. But even underneath a heap of small children, Thomas can still shoot. We shoot with the teacher, Miss Velvet (translated from Vietnamese).